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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Absent Russians Open Way for Competition

WARSAW -- The Russian champions are absent this year, and that means the European Figure Skating Championships will finally have some new winners.

After back-to-back years of gold medals for Irina Slutskaya, Yevgeny Plushenko, pairs Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin, and ice dancers Tatiana Navka and Toman Kostomarov, the 2007 competition, which opens Tuesday, will have a different look.

Brian Joubert of France has emerged as the favorite in the men's field now that Plushenko is taking a break to pursue other interests, including Russian politics.

Joubert, 21, is coming off a strong season, capped by victory at the Grand Prix Final in St. Petersburg last month. He's looking to add a second European title to his 2004 win.

And besides missing Plushenko, who has won five European titles, three world titles and the gold medal at last year's Turin Olympics, the competition will be without Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland, who pulled out citing a lack of motivation.

Joubert won the Trophee Bompard and Cup of Russia in November, and then the Grand Prix title a month later.

"I feel good because I won all my competitions," he said. "It's a good beginning and I feel very confident. Technically everything is fine."

Alban Preaubert, another Frenchman, and 2005 European bronze medalist Stefan Lindemann are expected to be Joubert's main competition.

With seven-time European champion Slutskaya taking a break, the women's competition is wide open.

Switzerland's Sarah Meir won the Cup of Russia and took third at the Grand Prix Final, and she is expecting competition from Julia Sebestyen of Hungary, the 2004 European champion, Yelena Sokolova of Russia, Susanna Poykio of Finland and Carolina Kostner of Italy.